Big Idea: To End the Fiscal Showdown, Tax Carbon
By Van Jones and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins /

At his official post-election press conference, President Obama told reporters that he's serious about fighting climate change while creating jobs. "We can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader," he said, "I think that's something that the American people would support."

We have just the answer. It's not a new idea, but as the two parties face off over the federal budget, it could be the path forward. There's a tool we can use to answer the public's call for more jobs -- without cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security: a carbon tax.

One analysis by the Congressional Budget Office says a moderate, $20-per-ton tax on carbon emissions could raise $1.25 trillion over 10 years. And the savings don't stop there. For decades, the oil and coal industries have passed along their costs to the rest of us, in the form of asthma treatment, emergency room visits, doctor bills and missed days of school and work. Combined with droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and severe weather events like Superstorm Sandy, rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere cost our nation an estimated $70 billion each year.

That's real money. And unlike cutting Medicare and Social Security, a carbon tax is a political winner. A large and growing super-majority of Americans -- 70% -- believe climate change is a real problem. A Yale University national survey found overwhelming majorities in favor of bold action like a carbon tax. Even the far-right American Enterprise Institute has been willing to talk about the benefits of a carbon tax, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist has flirted with the idea.

Yes, polluters will fight a carbon tax tooth and nail, just like tobacco companies raged against cigarette taxes. But far from costing jobs, a carbon tax will provide a net benefit to our economy, especially if we start the carbon tax conversation by making sure miners and other coal industry workers -- the people who have sacrificed their lungs, and in some instances even their lives, so that we can keep the lights on -- are among the biggest winners.

Experts anticipate that the $500 billion in scheduled federal budget cuts will cost us nearly one million jobs. The $1.25 trillion from a carbon tax would allow us to avoid these cuts with money to spare to pay down the deficit, and to maintain clean energy investments that create 3.2 times as many jobs per dollar than subsidies for fossil fuels. A carbon tax would also reduce barriers to market entry for clean-energy startups facing an entrenched fossil fuel industry. There are already 3.1 million green jobs in America -- imagine how many more there would be if we leveled the playing field instead of subsidizing oil and coal companies.

Finally, one study by the Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research institute found that we could create up to 1.7 million jobs simply by putting a price on carbon. The fact is, our economy will only be stronger and our communities healthier if we tax pollution instead of subsidizing it -- and invest in the new industries of tomorrow.

A carbon tax is really that rarest of ideas, a win-win-win solution that solves multiple problems at once. Tax polluters so we can pay down our debt without slashing the safety net? Win. Spur investment in new technologies and spark the creation of clean-energy manufacturing jobs right here in America? Win. And take a long-overdue step toward solving the climate crisis that already costs so much, and will only get worse? Win.

The question isn't whether this vision is right for America -- nearly everyone wants to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, bring home a decent paycheck and retire with security.

The only question is if Washington has the courage to seize this opportunity. If they do, this moment won't be remembered as a drawn-out partisan showdown over spending, but as the launching pad from which we began to sail into a healthier, more prosperous future.

Van Jones is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform for political innovation focused on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green for All.

0.0 · 0
What's Next
Load Comments
Trending Today
Sweden's Feminist Foreign Minister Has Dared to Tell the Truth About Saudi Arabia. What Happens Now Concerns Us All
Nick Cohen · 44,044 views today · Margot Wallström’s principled stand deserves wide support. Betrayal seems more likely
Wikileaks Exposes Secret Deal to Get Saudi Arabia on UN Human Rights Council
Michaela Whitton · 11,054 views today · Two years after the controversial appointment of Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council, leaked diplomatic cables have revealed the UK was a key player in the election of...
5 Short Films About the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Andrew Butler · 5,627 views today · Twelve nations have signed a trade agreement that puts corporate profits before the needs and rights of citizens
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 4,149 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Misogyny and the Healing of the Masculine
Charles Eisenstein · 2,112 views today · My new home of West Asheville is in the news. A local coffee shop, Waking Life Espresso, closed its doors after its owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens were outed for hosting...
The Economic Hitmen
2 min · 1,715 views today · A great illustration on how Goverments take control of countries, and how capitalism drives the expansion of the Military Industrial Complex.
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 1,670 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
If Fast Food Commercials Were Honest
3 min · 1,586 views today · Turns out the only thing grosser than the food is how the commercials are made. Our temporary kid zoo contains a ball pit and a slide, both perfect for creating the illusion...
How Men Reacted to Their Moms Getting Catcalled
Cavan Sieczkowski · 1,516 views today · Some men might not have firsthand experience with catcalling, but when sons sat down to watch video of their moms being catcalled, the issue hit close to home.  Condé Nast...
Maximum Creativity at Minimum Wage
6 min · 1,426 views today · If we are willing to work minimum wage at a dumb job that kills our soul, why not do our art instead, charge minimum wage or $10 an hour for it, gain a following and increase...
As .01% Face Extinction: Darth Vader, Scrooge, Professor Snape Offer Advice to Their Minions
Carl Herman · 1,400 views today · 4-minute video of Darth Vader’s choice to serve love, family, and community rather than vicious psychopathic hatred: For those involved in support of US government-sponsored...
'Agrihoods' Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses
Joseph Erbentraut · 1,266 views today · The model takes the idea of farm-to-table to the next level.
TPP, TTIP, TiSA, ISDS - Acronyms to End Democracy
6 min · 1,260 views today · The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) are currently being negotiated behind closed...
Robert Reich Takes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
2 min · 1,213 views today · The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest--and worst--trade deal you've never heard of and Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to "fast...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use To Change The World
Films For Action · 1,194 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Jackson Katz: I'm Going to Share With You a Paradigm-Shifting Perspective On Gender Violence That Harms Both Women and Men
19 min · 986 views today · This should really get your brain thinking in entirely new ways. "Our whole cognitive structure is built up" to ignore this... Jackson Katz, Phd, is an anti-sexist activist...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 954 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Numerous Civilians Dead After US Bombs Hospital in Afghanistan
Nadia Prupis · 922 views today · Dozens dead and wounded after witnesses say bombardment of charity medical center continued for 30 minutes
Seven Everyday Things Poor People Worry About That Rich People Never Do
Carmen Rios · 905 views today · It isn’t just poor people’s lives which differ from rich people’s lives – it's poor people's thoughts that differ from everyone else's.
Abby Martin & Chris Hedges: War, Propaganda and the Enemy Within
28 min · 892 views today · Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges on American myths, war and revolt. Hedges explains the 'folly of Empire,' the dangers posed by right-wing extremism and the urgent need for...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?